Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates

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Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and OatesFor all the success that this Philadelphia-based duo would experience later on in their career, Daryl Hall and John Oates struggled to find a commercial footing early on. That’s not to say that they didn’t produce interesting and creative music as demonstrated brilliantly on their second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, released in late 1973. Despite only reaching #33 on the album charts during its initial run, this album slowly grew in stature and would finally reach platinum-selling status about three decades after its release.

The duo first met in 1967 while each was leading a separate group during a band competition. They later discovered that they had common musical interests and that both attended Temple University. The Hall & Oates musical duo was officially formed in 1970, with a recording contract at Atlantic Records. Their debut album, Whole Oates, was produced by Arif Mardin and released in November 1972 but failed to have any commercial success.

For Abandoned Luncheonette, the group and production team moved from from Philadelphia to New York where their disparate influences of folk, rock and soul were refined with the help of expert session players to forge the album’s musical tapestry as well as the group’s signature sound for the next decade. Much like on their album, the compositions and to a lesser extent lead vocals are split between the two with Hall & Oates penning just a few co-written songs.


Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and Oates
Released: November 3, 1973 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Arif Mardin
Recorded: Atlantic Studios and Advantage Sound Studios, New York City, 1973
Side One Side Two
When The Morning Comes
Had I Known You Better Then
Las Vegas Turnaround (Stewardess Song)
She’s Gone
I’m Just A Kid
Abandoned Luncheonette
Lady Rain
Laughing Boy
Everytime I Look At You
Primary Musicians
Daryl Hall – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
John Oates – Guitars, Vocals
Chris Bond – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Gelfand – Bass
Bernard Purdie – Drums, Percussion

The album begin’s with Hall’s “When the Morning Comes”, a subtle acoustic reggae beat sprinkled with a cool mellotron by Chris Bond . It allows plenty of room for Hall’s vocals to expand through his generous range. Rhythmically, the song is kept moving by the drums of the legendary Bernard Purdie. Oats provides his initial composition with “Had I Known You Better Then”, a folk singer/songwriter type song with just a hint of the rock n’ soul sound driven by a slight electric piano by Hall. “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)” has a fine, unique musical groove, highlighted by the saxophone lead of Joe Farrell and the main lyrical subject appears to be Hall’s girlfriend Sara Allen, the later subject of the 1976 hit song “Sara Smile”.

Another future hit for the duo is the fantastic “She’s Gone”, the true classic song from album. With a building arrangement starting with Steve Gelfand‘s bass and the subtle soul piano. A true duet, the atmosphere continues building atmosphere through its duration with horns introducing the strong outro section. Although released in 1974 as a single, it wouldn’t chart until it was re-released two years later, when it became a Top Ten hit in 1976. “I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)” revisits the somewhat tacky acoustic folk/rock by Oates, albeit with good harmonies throughout and an interesting use of keyboards.

Hall and Oates, 1973

The album’s title song commences the original side two, as a nostalgic storyteller suite interesting arrangement of piano, horns and further orchestration. “Abandoned Luncheonette” rapidly shifts a few times in style and shift, expressing the past moments of the now defunct location. “Lady Rain” is a funky folk tune with good combined vocals and an interesting dark string arrangement and bluesy guitar licks by Hugh McCracken, while the simple ballad “Laughing Boy” features Hall solo on piano and vocals and just some very subtle orchestration, providing a mood which sounds like it would fit better in a thematic or concept album. The extended closer
“Everytime I Look At You” starts as an upbeat funk/rocker with a heavy guitar and bass presence that make this heavier than anything else on this album. Hall provides an excellent guitar lead before Hall’s climatic vocal part followed by and unexpected outro of banjo and fiddle to an escalating tempo to finish the album.

Both Hall & Oates have allegedly cited Abandoned Luncheonette as their favorite album in their catalog. The duo released their third album, War Babies, in 1974 before moving on to RCA Records and much success in subsequent years.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Infidels by Bob Dylan

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Infidels by Bob DylanIn 1983, Bob Dylan released his studio album, Infidels. With this, Dylan received his highest critical and commercial success in nearly a decade. Still, through time, Infidels received criticism for not including some classic tracks like “Foot of Pride”, “Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart” and “Blind Willie McTell”, which were both recorded for this album but ultimately omitted. The latter of these would not be released until an outtakes album in 1991 but has come to be considered a true classic in Dylan’s expansive portfolio.

Late in the 1970s, Dylan became an evangelical Christian and, after dedicating three months of discipleship, he decided to release a trilogy of Gospel influenced music. Slow Train Coming (1979) was well-received critically, won Dylan a Grammy award for the song “Gotta Serve Somebody”, and marked his first work with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler. The subsequent albums Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981) were less regarded by critics and fans.

Co-produced by Knofler, Infidels was seen as a return to Dylan’s secular music roots. He initially wanted to self-produce the album but capitulated due to his lack of knowledge of emerging recording technology. Dylan had spoken with David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and Elvis Costello about producing this album before hiring Knopfler.

 


Infidels by Bob Dylan
Released: October 27, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan
Recorded: The Power Station, New York City, April-May 1983
Side One Side Two
Jokerman
Sweetheart Like You
Neighborhood Bully
License to Kill
Man of Peace
Union Sundown
I and I
Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight
Primary Musicians
Bob Dylan – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica
Mark Knopfler – Guitars
Mick Taylor – Guitars
Alan Clark – Piano, Keyboards
Robbie Shakespeare – Bass
Sly Dunbar – Drums, Percussion

 

The album begins with its strongest tune, “Jokerman”, which is musically led by Robbie Shakespeare‘s thumping bass and the subtle duo guitars of Knopfler and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. Meanwhile, Dylan provides potent lyrics and great melody and, although very repetitive, the song has much forward motion due to the increasing vocal intensity as well as the subtle building of musical arrangement and fine harmonica leads late in the song. Released as a single in 1984, “Jokerman” simultaneously spawned Dylan’s MTV-era music video. “Sweetheart Like You” follows as a rather standard ballad with a good hook. Knofler’s influence is very evident in its arrangement which also features keyboardist Alan Clark.

Much of the material on Infidels has a solid rock or pop arrangement, displaying how far musically Dylan had strayed from the folk or roots based music he proliferated in the 1960s while still touching on the topical issues of the day. “Neighborhood Bully” has a new wave edge with a bit of Southern-style guitar slide while lyrically using sarcasm to defend Israel’s right to exist. “License to Kill” closes the first side as a slow and steady rocker with plenty of twangy and guitar motion with lyrics that address man’s relationship to the environment.

Bob Dylan in 1983

The surprising rock arrangements continue into the second side with the layered electric guitar riffs, Hammond organ of “Man of Peace” and the crisp rocker “Union Sundown”, with Clark providing some nice rocking piano in mix and guest Clydie King adding some backing vocals. “I and I” is an interesting tune with subtle verses and more forceful choruses, making it perhaps the best song on the album’s second side. The album concludes with the pleasant, upbeat ballad, “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight”, a purely traditional love song.

A gold selling record, Infidels Reach the Top 20 in the US and the Top 10 in the UK. This achievement would mark the artist’s best success in the decade of the 1980s up until the 1989 release of the classic Oh Mercy.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Wake of the Flood by The Grateful Dead

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Wake of the Flood by Grateful DeadThe Grateful Dead‘s long awaited sixth studio album, Wake of the Flood, marked a new era for the California band. Their first studio album in nearly three years, this was the first album on their independent Grateful Dead Records label as well as the first to feature the couple Keith Godchaux on piano and keyboards and Donna Jean Godchaux on backing vocals. This seven track album features compositions which draw from a blend of influences, ranging from the roots genres of country, folk and ragtime to a seventies modern fusion of funk and jazz rock.

In 1970, the Grateful Dead released two critically acclaimed studio albums, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, where they scaled back their sound with heavy folk and country influences. Following this breakthrough success, the band did extensive worldwide touring and would release three live albums in three years – Grateful Dead in 1971, Europe ’72 in 1972, and Bear’s Choice in 1973. Keith Godchaux joined the group in 1971 as a pianist alongside founding keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, when Pigpen was moved exclusively to Hammond B3 organ at the time. In 1972, McKernan’s health deteriorated, leaving him unable tour, and  ultimately lose his life in March 1973 due to complications from liver damage. Percussionist Micky Hart also temporarily left the band during this era, leaving drummer Bill Kreutzmann as the sole member behind the skins.

In August 1973, the Grateful Dead took a break from touring to record studio versions of new songs which had been in live rotation. The band chose to record Wake of the Flood at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, near their Bay area home base. The band self produced the album along with help from staff engineers and recorded everything is less than two weeks.


Wake of the Flood by The Grateful Dead
Released: October 15, 1973 (Grateful Dead)
Produced by: The Grateful Dead
Recorded: The Record Plant, Sausalito, CA, August, 1973
Side One Side Two
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Let Me Sing Your Blues Away
Row Jimmy
Stella Blue
Here Comes Sunshine
Eyes of the World
Weather Report Suite
Group Musicians
Jerry Garcia – Guitars, Vocals
Bob Weir – Guitars, Vocals
Keith Godchaux – Keyboards, Vocals
Phil Lesh – Bass
Bill Kreutzmann – Drums, Percussion

Sonically, Wake of the Flood moves from very simple to more complex as the album moves along. The opening “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” has a real loose, live feel as a down-home bluegrass track featuring the fiddle of guest Vassar Clements throughout. Jerry Garcia‘s lead vocals are somewhat low in the mix of this track which likely got its title as a play on “Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champs”, a mid-sixties bluegrass group started by Garcia, McKernan and guitarist Bob Weir. “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” introduces Keith Godchaux to the listening audience as lead vocalist and co-writer with lyricist Robert Hunter. The first single from this album, this song has some strong melodic ideas and harmonies which are not completely formed on this recording.

Garcia’s complex and rhythmic “Row Jimmy” is the first sonically satisfying song on the album as a ballad accented with clavichord and percussion to complement the usual fine bass by Phil Lesh along with dual guitar licks. The exquisite “Stella Blue” is the best showcase of Garcia’s emotional vocals and is an overall well produced and tight ballad with an original and beautiful vibe with Hunter’s lyrics telling a story of lost love and sadness.

Grateful Dead in 1973

The album’s second side starts with the song that gives album its title. “Here Comes Sunshine” features another rich musical mix with an optimistic story of better days to come. The funky track “Eyes of the World” furthers the group’s sonic advancement into the fine mixes which they would display later in the 1970s, with great chord progressions, rudiments, rhythms and lead guitar. This leads to the album closer, Weir’s fantastic, three part “Weather Report Suite”, which showcases incredible, layered guitars and a smoothly put together and exquisitely produced jazz-influenced musical journey throughout. The “Prelude” section is an acoustic instrumental with slowly building rhythmic accompaniment, leading to “Part I”, featuring lyrics by guest Eric Andersen. The song addresses the seasons, and their relationship to the narrator’s state of mind. “Part II (Let it Grow)” feature’s Weir’s longtime lyrical partner John Perry Barlow and is the most upbeat part of the suite with music is perfectly laid out with various elements, including rich horns and a closing dual sax and harmonica lead, all making for a fine closing of this album.

Reaching the Top 20, Wake of the Flood fared better on the pop charts than any previous studio album. The Grateful Dead Records did not last all that long, collapsing in 1976, which resulted in this album all but disappearing from the marketplace for about a dozen years until it was issued on CD in the late 1980s.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls

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Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo DollsIt took six albums and over a decade for Goo Goo Dolls to be propelled into international success and 1998’s Dizzy Up the Girl was that ultimate catalyst. This album features more upbeat and pop-oriented compositions than the group had recorded on their five previous albums and no doubt this helped the record to achieve its stellar commercial success. It has sold more than four million copies and reached the Top 20 on album charts in several countries.

This Buffalo, New York based group was formed in the mid 1980s by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Rzeznik and bassist/vocalist Robby Takac. Their name was inspired by an ad for a toy. Once they signed with Mercury Records they used that name for their 1987 self-titled debut album. They had a loyal but mostly local fan base around the Buffalo music scene as they released several more albums through the early 1990s. Their 1995 album, A Boy Named Goo, was the first to receive national attention due to the success of the single “Name”, ultimately fueling that album towards double-platinum success. Shortly before that album’s release, drummer Mike Malinin became a permanent member of the trio.

The production of Dizzy Up the Girl followed a legal battle over earned royalties and through this time Goo Goo Dolls underwent a fundamental change in sound from strictly alternative rock to a more pop and mainstream music. The album was produced by Rob Cavallo and recorded during 1997 and 1998.


Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls
Released: September 22, 1998 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Rob Cavallo & Goo Goo Dolls
Recorded: 1997–1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Dizzy
Slide
Broadway
January Friend
Black Balloon
Bullet Proof
Amigone
All Eyes on Me
Full Forever
Acoustic #3
Iris
Extra Pale
Hate This Place
Johnny Rzeznik – Guitars, Vocals
Robby Takac – Bass, Vocals
Mike Malinin – Drums

Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls

 

 

The opening track “Dizzy” has a T-Rex-like vocal delivery by Rzeznik with more modern, nineties rock instrumentation and, although a short track, time is given for a nice instrumental break. “Slide” is an upbeat love song built on some finely picked guitar riffing and later echoed chording. The song reached the Top 10 on the US pop charts in early 1999 and topped the charts in Canada. “Broadway” follows as a local anthem for Buffalo topped by upbeat music and melodic pop vocals.

The first of four songs written by Takac where he takes lead vocals, “January Friend” has an upbeat, new wave rock vibe like the other three tracks later in the album. “Black Balloon” is a unique track with layered electric and acoustic guitars before eventually breaking into stronger rhythmic arrangement while maintaining a dreamy atmosphere throughout. The song is also one of many to feature string arrangements by David Campbell. “Bullet Proof” is a slightly dark, romantic and dramatic track with soaring vocals and much atmosphere, while Takac’s “Amigone” features a strong and present drum beat by Malinin. Following the Takac new wave track “Full Forever”, “Acoustic #3” lives up to its title as purely acoustic track by Rzeznik with some slight string arrangements which may be a bit superfluous in the otherwise simple elegance of the short track.

Goo Goo Dolls

“Iris” is the ultimate culmination of the album’s vibe with its acoustic with waltz-like beat and odd but appealing arrangement. The song was originally composed for the soundtrack of the film City of Angels and as the lead single from Dizzy Up the Girl, the song topped the pop charts in several countries. The album concludes with a couple of upbeat electric rockers, Takac’s slightly punk “Extra Pale”, and the full-fledged rocker “Hate This Place”, which completes the journey of this fine album.

With five successful singles released, Dizzy Up the Girl was far more successful than any previous or subsequent Goo Goo Dolls album. Following its release, the group took their time following up, with the seventh album Gutterflower arriving in 2002.

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1998 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1998 albums.

 

Sports by Huey Lewis & the News

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Sports by Huey Lewis and the NewsHuey Lewis and the News found their peak of commercial success with their third album, Sports. Released in the Autumn of 1983, the album topped the Billboard album charts the following year and spawned five Top 20 hits which remained on the charts and mainstream pop radio well into 1985. The album is a collection of original songs by Lewis and the band as well as songs written or co-written by composers outside the group, while maintaining an astonishing cohesion throughout.

The roots of the group date back to 1972 when Lewis, a vocalist and harmonica player joined the San Francisco area jazz-funk group Clover along with keyboardist Sean Hopper. Clover had a lengthy career through the 1970s and recorded several albums with minor success in the US And UK. When Lewis departed in 1977, the group became the original backing band for Elvis Costello’s debut album, My Aim Is True. Meanwhile, Lewis and Hopper began collaborating with another Bay Area jazz-funk group called Soundhole, with members including saxophonist and guitarist Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Bill Gibson. In 1978, Huey Lewis & The American Express was officially formed with lead guitarist Chris Hayes becoming the sixth and final member in 1979. After a record deal with Chrysalis Records was secured, the group modified their name with the release of the self-titled LP Huey Lewis and the News in 1980. A second studio album, Picture This was self-produced and released in 1982 with gold-level success fueled by the breakout singles “Do You Believe in Love” and “Workin’ for a Livin'”.

Recording for Sports began immediately after the completion of Picture This with producer Bill Szymczyk assisting in production. Due to reorganization at Chrysalis, the band employed the strategy of holding back the master tapes and biding their time performing at small venues while the label got their affairs in order and were in a position to fully promote the album.

 


Sports by Huey Lewis & the News
Released: September 15, 1983 (Chrysalis)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk, Huey Lewis and the News
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA; Record Plant, Sausalito, CA & The Automatt, San Francisco, 1983
Side One Side Two
The Heart of Rock n’ Roll
Heart and Soul
Bad Is Bad
I Want a New Drug
Walkin’ On a Thin Line
Finally Found a Home
If This Is It
You Crack Me Up
Honky Tonk Blues
Group Musicians
Huey Lewis – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Chris Hayes – Guitars, Vocals
Johnny Colla – Saxophone, Guitars, Vocals
Sean Hopper – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Mario Cipollina – Bass
Bill Gibson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

“The Heart of Rock n’ Roll” starts the album with a thumping heartbeat sound to launch the thematic (albeit somewhat tacky) anthem. Musically, it employs the faux eighties funk rock that permeates this album but worked well in the mid eighties pop scene. While equally as popular, “Heart and Soul” is of much higher quality overall. Co-written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn of the band Exile, this classic rocker uses a repeated riff but with strategic arrangements throughout, including the mid section where the deadened guitar and bass make for a simple but effective bridge. Further, the song features probably the best vocals by Lewis overall on the album.

“Bad Is Bad” is a modern doo-wop / soul track with cool organ Hopper, bluesy guitars by Hayes and a potent harmonica solo by Lewis with lyrics that are both jocular and profound. The song was written in the late 1970s while Lewis was working with Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy and that group did perform it live a few times half a decade before it was recorded for Sports. “I Want a New Drug” is another slightly clever theme which at once normalizes and demonizes drug use. Musically, there are dueling guitars over the simplest, cheezy-est synth rhythm, a method later “borrowed” by Ray Parker Jr. for the Ghostbuster theme song. “Walking On a Thin Line” was co-written by Andre Pessis and Kevin Wells of Clover and it starts with a haunting synth bass before breaking into an upbeat pop rocker with good melody and a semi-serious message about a Vietnam veteran’s post-war stress.

Huey Lewis and the News in 1983

The later part of the album tends to thin out on quality material. The lone exception is the hit song “If This Is It”, which features strong guitar-driven rock elements, some doo-wop backing vocals and fantastic lead vocals melody and chorus hook. The song is sandwiched between the pop-rock boilerplate “Finally Found a Home” and the more hyper new-wave synth rocker, “You Crack Me Up”. The album ends quite oddly with a cover of Hank Williams’ late 1940s Country hit “Honky Tonk Blues”, which does little to advance the original but is a nice place to showcase Hopper’s piano playing skills.

Sports was a hit worldwide but Huey Lewis and the News continued their rapid work schedule, scoring the Academy Award nominated theme song for the 1985 film Back to the Future and following up Sports with the similar pop-rocker Fore! in 1986, which was nearly as big of a hit as its predecessor.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Jim Croce 1973 Albums

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Buy I Got a Name

Jim Croce 1973 albumsIn 1973 Jim Croce found the pinnacle of his career success and all the bedlam and time on the road which goes along with such success. So, after releasing the successful album Life and Times and finishing the recording for the follow-up, I Got a Name, Croce decided he would retire from music to spend some valuable time with his family following that album’s tour. Unfortunately, Croce was killed in a plane crash on September 20, 1973, following a gig on the Life and Times tour in Louisiana.

A native of Philadelphia, Croce’s music career began by playing fraternity parties at Villanova University. He released his self-financed debut album, Facets in 1966, which sold out its limited release of 500 copies. Soon after, Croce began performing as a duet with his wife Ingrid and the couple migrated to New York City to record their 1969 album, Jim & Ingrid Croce. They followed this with an extensive, two-year college tour where they estimated that they drove more than 300,000 miles zig-zagging the country.

After connecting with classically trained pianist-guitarist-singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen, Croce signed a three-record contract with ABC Records and released the successful 1972 album, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim, which features three songs which reached the Top 20, including the #1 hit “Time In a Bottle”. This was followed shortly by Life and Times which, like its predecessor was recorded in New York City and produced by the team of Terry Cashman and Tommy West.

Life and Times by Jim Croce
Life and Times
Released: July 1, 1973 (ABC)
Produced by: Terry Cashman & Tommy West
Recorded: The Hit Factory, New York City, 1972
Side One Side Two
One Less Set of Footsteps
Roller Derby Queen
Dreamin’ Again
Careful Man
Alabama Rain
A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business
Next Time, This Time
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
These Dreams
Speedball Tucker
It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
I Got a Name by Jim Croce
I Got a Name
Released: December 1, 1973 (ABC)
Produced by: Terry Cashman & Tommy West
Recorded: The Hit Factory, New York City, 1973
Side One Side Two
I Got a Name
Lover’s Cross
Five Short Minutes
Age
Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues
I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song
Salon and Saloon
Thursday
Top Hat Bar and Grille
Recently
The Hard Way Every Time
Primary Musicians (Both Albums)
Jim Croce – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Maury Muehleisen -Guitars, Vocals
Michael Kamen – Keyboards
Joe Macho – Bass
Gary Chester – Drums

“One Less Set of Footsteps”is a fine opener on Life and Times with excellent acoustic riffing throughout by Muehleisen. It was released as the album’s first single and reached the Top 40 on the pop charts. “Roller Derby Queen” is a folksy diddy featuring a strong, cardboard beat by drummer Gary Chester. “Dreamin’ Again” follows as classic Croce folk tune with pointed lyrics, descending acoustic riff and the very sparse arrangement of two guitars, vocals, light bass and minor orchestral effects

Life and Times by Jim Croce“Careful Man” is a bluesy, country folk tune with an upbeat rhythmic shuffle and a fiddle lead by Eric Weissberg over some honky tonk piano by Michael Kamen. “Alabama Rain” is a laid back love song, while “A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business (Singin’ the Blues)” returns to the upbeat with dual acoustic and flowing bass by Joe Macho. “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” is the keystone song on Life and Times as a classic, good-time storyteller built on a distinct piano riff by Tommy West. This song became Croce’s second number one single. The rest of the album repeats the alternating folk ballad/upbeat blues pattern with the elegant ballads “These Dreams” and “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” sandwiching the riff-laden “Speedball Tucker”.

Jim Croce

Life and Times was released in July 1973 and reached the Top 10 in the US and topped the charts in Canada. Once again, quickly following up on the success and keeping up the momentum, Croce once again entered the studio with Cashman and West to start a follow-up very soon after the previous album’s release.

Unlike Life and Times, which featured songs exclusively written by Croce and Croce alone, I Got a Name features tracks composed by multiple artists from within and outside of Croce and his core group. The opening title song was composed by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel and is an exquisite ballad that exudes personal existence and humanity, which proved to be all the more profound following Croce’s death. The simple musical arrangement features a crisp acoustic, fantastic bass and some orchestral strings which all complement Croce’s perfectly executed soft melodies. The first posthumous single, the song peaked at #10 on the Billboard pop charts.

I Got a Name by Jim CroceTwo Croce originals follow with “Lover’s Cross” being a Baroque folk acoustic with lyrical interpersonal philosophy and “Five Short Minutes” being an upbeat rocker, featuring edgy lyrics, horns and a sax solo. “Age” was co-written by Jim and Ingrid Croce and a version of the song was recorded on their 1969 album together. The song also commences the heart of this album as a folk ballad on top of an upbeat rhythm and a pedal steel lead. “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues” is written in the same spirit as “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” with the distinction being the shuffling drum rolls and the pointed slide guitar.

“I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” is a classic love ballad and one of Croce’s most indelible songs. The song peaked at #9 in April 1974, becoming his fifth and final Top 10 hit. The Muehleisen-composed “Salon and Saloon” is an old-timey piano saloon ballad and bears the distinction of being the last song that Croce recorded in his lifetime. Rounding out the album is Sal Joseph’s folk song “Thursday”, the upbeat “Top Hat Bar and Grille”, the interesting mellow folk vibe of “Recently”, and “The Hard Way Every Time”, Croce’s retrospective and haunting folk track, which works perfectly as the final song.

Just one week after recording wrapped in September, Croce’s plane clipped a pecan tree at the end of the runway and could not gain sufficient altitude, with the resulting crash killing five. Released on December 1, 1973, I Got a Name was another very successful album commercially, peaking near the top of the charts. A 1974 greatest hits album entitled Photographs & Memories was one final blockbuster success and it nicely encapsulated his rapid run at stardom as it totally drew from Croce’s three incredible albums from 1972 and 1973.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

An Innocent Man by Billy Joel

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An Innocent Man by Billy JoelBilly Joel took a musical detour by forging an album of interpretive styles on An Innocent Man, his ninth studio album. Here, Joel pays homage to various musical styles which were popular during his formative years in the late 1950s and early 1960s, while finely showcasing his own music diversity and vocal skills. Despite being unique in his catalog, this album continued Joel’s streak of Grammy-nominated albums and top commercial success, with An Innocent Man spaning six Top 40 hits.

The heavy material and rich production of Joel’s 1982 release, The Nylon Curtain was an overall exhausting experience for this artist. Further, Joel was recently divorced and found himself single for the first time following his rise to international fame. Joel said he felt like a teenager again and thus reverted back to the various popular music styles of those years. In early 1983, he quickly wrote several compositions, each in a distinct style and/or as a tribute to a distinct artist.

Although this album was stylistically different than anything Joel had done before, for his backing group he maintained the same personnel he had performed with since the mid 1970s and once again brought in producer Phil Ramone, who had produced Joel’s five previous albums.

 


An Innocent Man by Billy Joel
Released: August 8, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Phil Ramone
Recorded: Chelsea Sound and A&R Recording, New York, Spring 1983
Side One Side Two
Easy Money
An Innocent Man
The Longest Time
This Night
Tell Her About It
Uptown Girl
Careless Talk
Christie Lee
Leave a Tender Moment Alone
Keeping the Faith
Primary Musicians
Billy Joel – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
Russell Javors – Guitars
Mark Rivera – Saxophone, Percussion, Vocals
Doug Stegmeyer – Bass
Liberty DeVitto – Drums

 

An Innocent Man is bookmarked by two of its more upbeat tracks, starting with “Easy Money”, a homage to Wilson Pickett and/or James Brown. Musically this song features guest Leon Pendarvis on Hammond B3 organ and a generous amount of soulful brass, and although not released as single, this album opener was immediately featured as the theme of a major motion picture of the same name, starring Rodney Dangerfield. The title song, “An Innocent Man”, is an absolute masterpiece. In fact, this soulful and dynamic ballad may well be Joel’s best overall song of the entire decade of the 1980s. It is a masterpiece of production and arrangement as it migrates from a simple bass and percussion arrangement into a majestic ensemble as the song climaxes. Vocally, Joel hits the absolute top of his range during the choruses and admits that he was not able to hit those notes again.

Another vocal milestone, “The Longest Time” is a doo-wop track with a plethora of harmonized vocals all done by Joel himself. Aside from the vocals, the song uses a very sparse musical arrangement made of just plucked bass, brushed snare, and finger snaps. “This Night” continues the 1950s doo-wop homage with an inventive adaption of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Pathetique” sonata during the chorus, making Beethoven the only artist to receive a co-writing credit with Joel on this album. Motown-influence “Tell Her About It” completes the original first side as brass takes lead over Joel’s piano rhythms and the thumping bass of Doug Stegmeyer. The lead single from the album, this hit #1 on the American pop charts.

Billy Joel Band 1983

The consistent drum beat of Liberty DeVitto drives the Four Seasons-esque “Uptown Girl”. Here, Joel introduces yet another “voice”, straining his upper range throughout while staying melodic and catchy. This Top 10 song and its video also served as an allegory for Joel’s new relationship with model Christie Brinkley, who appeared in the video and would ultimately become Joel’s wife in 1985. “Careless Talk” features more great melodies and counter harmonies, choppy rhythms, and a bit of an unexpected diversion through the bridge, while the first wave rocker “Christie Lee” is highlighted by a couple of short sax solos by Mark Rivera. The pleasant and moderate ballad “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” lyrically explores awkward banter while featuring more exquisite melodies by Joel ethereal harmonica by Toots Thielemans. The album concludes with “Keeping the Faith” which, while lyrically anchored in the early sixties, is really modern sounding eighties pop song led by the sleek guitar riff of Russell Javors as well as a contemporary brass arrangement.

After the tremendous success of An Innocent Man, Joel worked with Columbia records to release the double-length compilation Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2, which ultimately became one of the best-selling albums to that date in American music history and marked the absolute apex of Joel’s long and successful career.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Car Wheels On a Gravel Road
by Lucinda Williams

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Car Wheels On a Gravel Road by Lucinda WilliamsCar Wheels on a Gravel Road, the fifth studio album by Lucinda Williams, is a highly acclaimed, awarded and influential 1998 record. In fact, several have credited its release as a pivotal moment in the course of folk and country roots music as well as the origin of the alternative country sub-genre. Further, this album’s rural lyrics about simple but relate able situations along with the excellent, earthy musical arrangements work to make it fresh and timeless decades after its release.

A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Williams began her music career in Austin and Houston, Texas in the mid 1970s. She developed a distinct blend of country folk and rock that led to her initial record deal and the 1978 release of her debut album Ramblin’ on My Mind. In the 1980s, Williams relocated to Nashville and began receiving critical acclaim and scored a minor hit with her 1988 self-titled album. 1992’s Sweet Old World had even more modest commercial success but was widely recognized for its fine songwriting. It would be six years before Williams, a recording perfectionist, would release her much-anticipated follow-up.

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, commenced recording in 1995, shortly after Williams signed with American Recordings. The original version of the album was made with producer Gurf Morlix in Austin, Texas. However, Williams shelved that version and started over in Nashville with co-producers Steve Earle and Roy Bittan and a large ensemble of Nashville session players.


Car Wheels On a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams
Released: June 30, 1998 (Mercury)
Produced by: Roy Bittan, Steve Earle, Ray Kennedy & Lucinda Williams
Recorded: Room and Board Studio, Nashville, & Rumbo Studio, Canoga Park, CA, 1995-1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Right in Time
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten
Drunken Angel
Concrete and Barbed Wire
Lake Charles
Can’t Let Go
I Lost It
Metal Firecracker
Greenville
Still I Long For Your Kiss
Joy
Jackson
Lucinda Williams – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Dobro
Gurf Morlix – Guitars, Vocals
John Ciambotti – Bass
Donald Lindley – Drums, PercussionCar Wheels On a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams

 

 

The album commences with “Right in Time”, a minor hit with a twangy overall sound (but not so overt as modern country) and, ultimately, a moderate and pleasant mixture of layered guitars. The title track “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” has even more refined and methodical musical elements as a patient yet energetic track which melodically has an almost new wave rock approach. “2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten” starts off with a potent drum shuffle before more subtle guitars, a bass fill in the cool rhythms and a subtle accordion by Bittan. Although the extreme laid back vocals may be a little too staged, overall this is the best song of the opening trio.

“Drunken Angel” makes a strong statement as an Americana alt country staple with pure nineties grunge pop vocals and attitude, while “Concrete and Barbed Wire” reverts to an acoustic country waltz with a building arrangement throughout while staying within the old-time country realm. The storytelling “Lake Charles” features a strong beat with steady, thumping bass by Ciambotti and some slide guitar. The Randy weeks cover “Can’t Let Go” features Mississippi Delta like acoustic blues with a nice shuffle percussion beat and twin slide electric guitars on top.

Lucinda Williams

The album’s second half features an array of quality tracks with the standard alt country pop song “I Lost It”, a post-mordem on a lost relationship on “Metal Firecracker”, and the emotional country ballad “Greenville”, which features Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals. “Still I Long For Your Kiss” was co-written by Duane Jarvis, while “Joy” is built on rotating acoustic and electric bluesy riffs during its long intro and droning song proper. The quiet acoustic closer “Jackson”completes the record in a very moody and beautiful way.

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road became Williams’ first Gold album and won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. The crossover success of this album led to Williams touring with top-notch legends such as Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in support of the album.

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1998 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1998 albums.

 

More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads

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More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking HeadsThe second album by Talking Heads, 1978’s More Songs About Buildings and Food got its sarcastic title by addressing the cliche of the “sophomore jinx” where songs not used on the debut are combined with inferior and underdeveloped new compositions. However, that “jinx” was obliterated here as the quirky new wave quartet found decent commercial success and widespread critical acclaim for their fine combination of standard motifs and inventive techniques, perfect for that era of popular music.

Composer, guitarist and vocalist David Byrne, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz were all alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design and formed their first band in 1973 before migrating to New York City in 1975. Getting their name from a TV Guide article, Talking Heads were signed to Sire Records in November 1976 and added keyboardist/guitarist Jerry Harrison early in 1977. The group’s debut album, Talking Heads 77 found decent success in part due to the single “Psycho Killer”, which hit the airwaves around the same time as New York City was embroiled in the “summer of Sam”.

More Songs About Buildings and Food was the first of a trilogy collaboration between the group and producer Brian Eno, who took their raw sound and emphasized on more danceable rhythms to fuse a unique vibe for Byrne’s art/rock compositions. On this album the group also started their long tradition of recording in the Bahamas at Compass Studios.


More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads
Released: July 14, 1978 (Sire)
Produced by: Brian Eno & Talking Heads
Recorded: Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas, March–April 1978
Side One Side Two
Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
With Our Love
The Good Thing
Warning Sign
The Girls Want to Be with the Girls
Found a Job
Artists Only
I’m Not in Love
Stay Hungry
Take Me to the River
The Big Country
Group Musicians
David Byrne – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Percussion
Jerry Harrison – Piano, Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
Tina Weymouth – Bass, Vocals
Chris Frantz – Drums, Percussion

 

A rapid shuffle above a pointed hard rock riff defines the sound of “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel”, with extra percussion between the verses. This opening track acts as sort of a bridge between the debut album’s tension and the bigger rhythmic sound of this album. “With Our Love” follows with a rather spazzy funk feel in the verses, while “The Good Thing” is the most accessible song thus far with an upbeat yet smooth, rounded sound led by Weymouth’s bass and odd but catchy harmonized refrains. Co-written by Frantz, “Warning Sign” features a drum beat with exaggerated reverb joined by catchy bass and guitar riff in long intro before the song proper develops into choppy new wave track.

“The Girls Want to Be with the Girls” may be the first track where the group seems to try too hard to force a quirkly style and it ends up feeling disjointed, while the side one closer “Found a Job” features pure funk verses and new wave rock choruses. Side two begins with “Artists Only”, a song which explores several pleasant styles in rapid fashion, while “I’m Not in Love” moves back to funk but with driving, rapid rhythms as it makes its way through many odd sections before completing with an entertaining quasi-guitar lead jam. “Stay Hungry” is a shorter funk/jam featuring much synth influence by Eno.

Talking Heads

By far, the album’s commercial anchor is its only cover song, a distinct version of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” featuring a sound that defines an eighties hit while still in the late 1970s. The deliberative rhythm method and fine production technique brought the group a worldwide Top 40 crossover hit. The album ends with the pleasant sonics of “The Big Country” with a fine mixture of acoustic and electric and a slide/country vibe topped by a steady drum beat.

More Songs About Buildings and Food peaked in the Top 30 of the Pop Albums charts and eventually reached gold record status. Eno and the Talking Heads continued this successful formula with 1979’s Fear of Music and the hit album Remain in Light in 1980.

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1978 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1978 albums.

 

The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get

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The Smoker You Drink the Player You Get by Joe WalshThe second of two albums featuring singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joe Walsh with his backup group Barnstorm, The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get features a fine selection of diverse rock, blues, folk and jazz. This diversity in style is parallel to the diversity of composers within Barnstorm as well as the multiple lead vocalists throughout the album. As a result, this 1973 album proved to be a commercial breakthrough for Walsh and the band, reaching the Top 10 in the United States.

After much success with James Gang, Walsh decided to leave that rock trio in late 1971. He relocated to Colorado, where he formed the band Barnstorm, with bassist Kenny Passarelli and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Joe Vitale. Very soon after forming, the group started recording their debut album, which was originally released as the eponymous Barnstorm (later listed as a Joe Walsh solo album) in October 1972. While a critical success, the album had only moderate commercial success.

The group immediately began work on a follow-up in late 1972 with producer Bill Szymczyk. Recorded throughout the winter of 1972-1973, this second album features a fourth Barnstorm member, keyboardist Rocke Grace, although the album is fully credited to Walsh as a solo artist.


The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get by Joe walsh
Released: June 18, 1973 (ABC-Dunhill)
Produced by: Joe Walsh & Bill Szymczyk
Recorded: 1972-1973
Side One Side Two
Rocky Mountain Way
Book Ends
Wolf
Midnight Moodies
Happy Ways
Meadows
Dreams
Days Gone By
Day Dream (Prayer)
Primary Musicians
Joe Walsh – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards. Vocals
Kenny Passarelli – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Rocke Grace – Keyboards, Vocals
Joe Vitale – Drums, Percussion, Drums, Keyboards, Flute, Vocals

The album begins with its most popular and indelible track, “Rocky Mountain Way”, compositionally credited to all four Barnstorm members. This entertaining, methodical rocker features a masterful coda section with an impressive talk box lead followed by Walsh’s signature slide guitar as the song fades out. Lyrically, the song was inspired by Walsh reflecting on his decision to leave the James Gang and move to Colorado and it became Walsh’s first Top 40 hit.

Vitale’s “Book Ends” is a Bowie-esque glam ballad with piano and nicely treated guitars on top, while the drummer takes on lead vocals duties, followed by the dark folk, almost pyschedelic vibe of “Wolf”, where the minimal arrangement lets the full sonic effect shine through as well as concentrate on Walsh’s vocal delivery. “Midnight Moodies” is a jazzy, piano-led instrumental composed by Grace, with some good rhythms, slight rock guitar as well as plenty of flute flourishes by Vitale. “Happy Ways” features lead vocals by bassist Passarelli along with plenty of extra percussion added by Vitale and session percussionist Joe Lala.

Joe Walsh and Barnstorm

The album’s original second side begins with “Meadows”, a rocker with multiple dynamics throughout from the hard rocking chorus to the quiet acoustic mid section. “Dreams” may be the best overall song on the second side as a very unique track which highlights Barnstorm’s musical talent and versatility. It alternates from quiet jazz ballad to upbeat Gospel sound with piano and organ playing a large musical role throughout. Vitale’s “Days Gone By” is a pleasant enough jazz/pop/rocker but an odd one as the final proper song on the album, being a sort of fusion between the sounds of Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and a Broadway show tune. “Day Dream (Prayer)” was constructed as a stand-alone coda, featuring rich backing vocals by guests Venetta Fields and Clydie King and really only one proper verse before a long fade out ending the album.

In 1974, Walsh played slide guitar on Vitale’s debut solo album, Roller Coaster Weekend, continuing a decades long musical relationship between the two despite the fact that Barnstorm would break up following The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get. Later that same year, Walsh released his first totally solo record, So What, which was much more introspective and much less musically diverse than this final Barnstorm album.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.